Filipino Church praying and hoping for Mary Jane’s early release
Manila (AsiaNews) – Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, a migrant Filipina jailed in Indonesia on false charges of drug trafficking, "must be released immediately,” said Mgr Ruperto C. Santos, bishop of Balanga and president of the Commission for migrants of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“She is a hostage,” the prelate told AsiaNews, “the victim of human trafficking, something greater than her. The woman who allegedly recruited her turned herself into the authorities, but we believe that a much wider network of unscrupulous people stands above her.” For him, “If Indonesian authorities want justice, they must release her because she is innocent. We are praying for this.”
The Veloso’s case has sparked international condemnation, focusing the limelight on Filipino workers abroad. At the last moment, her life was spared at the last moment.
At present, she is no longer in a maximum security prison, on Kambang Island (Nusa Kambangan), a place dubbed ‘execution island’. Instead, she was taken to a regular prison in Yogyakarta.
"Yesterday, the bells rang out in celebration, when reports came in that her execution had been stayed. However, Mary Jane must come home as soon as possible. She is a key witness in a very important investigation, on the situation of Filipino migrants abroad".
“Such a situation is a challenge for all of us,” said Mgr Santos. “For our part, as Church, especially as Commission for migrants, we renew our appeal to our fellow countrymen and countrywomen forced to leave: do not take anything from strangers and try to stay out of trouble."
In August, the prelate will travel to Kuwait and other Gulf countries, where tens of thousands of Filipinos have gone in search for work. “We are going to be there for two weeks. We are going to try to meet as many workers as possible.”
In view of the situation, the prelate “called upon on everyone to keep in touch with Filipino chaplains overseas and with their diocese. It is sad to say, but often the Church is the only institution that defends justice and works for their welfare. We hope that Filipinos abroad can work together with others who are in the same situation.”
“If I could talk to each of them,” Mgr Santos said, "I would say the same thing. Watch out for those who promise easy money and secure jobs. Watch out for those who see you just as a thing. Try to have your rights respected without dirty tricks.”
Lastly, “For the Philippines, human trafficking is a terrible reality. Let us hope that the government will soon put in place policies that actually create jobs at home and defend those going abroad.” Meantime, “never forget your dignity as human beings”.